The importance of iron for your baby and how to include it in his diet

Do you know what is the importance of iron for your baby? This is the mineral that the body uses to make hemoglobin, the protein responsible for transporting oxygen within red blood cells to different parts of the body. Although this is its main function, it is not the only one. It also serves to make hormones and connective tissue, so it is essential for your little one's body to function properly.

The more the body develops, the more necessary its intake becomes. In fact, the American National Institute of Health established the necessary amount in a healthy diet depending on the stage of life.

The importance of iron for your baby

The iron present in breast milk is better absorbed than that present in other foods or beverages.

As it is so important to keep the body functioning properly, if there is a low intake, then it can be spoken of an iron deficiency (DH).

The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) ensures that DH is common. It affects almost 5 billion people worldwide, being the most likely cause of conditions such as anemia, a lack of hemoglobin or red blood cells.

Dr. Guillermo J Ruiz-Delgado assures in his article for the Revista de Hematología that DH is associated with abnormal mental and motor development in childhood. This is confirmed by the PAHO that asserts the importance of iron in babies in its newsletter where it reflects the high prevalence of anemia at 6 months of age in infants in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Iron deficiency anemia in children is associated poor results in cognitive, motor, social and emotional areas. The Pan American Health Organization assures that different studies have demonstrated the existence of permanent developmental deficiencies in anemic infants.

6-month-old infants had shorter conduction times for auditory brainstem responses compared to other control infants. After 4 years, s these deficiencies were not corrected, compared with the same control group.

Also read: 7 warning signs of anemia in children

Iron deficiency: a serious and common problem

Iron deficiency is generally not apparent until there is profound physiological damage. It is usually reflected when iron stores have already been used up or during this process. Ruiz Delgado says that DH is a result of the interaction of different risk factors, such as increased physical requirements, blood loss and limited reserves of this mineral.

Upon diagnosis, an evaluation should be made, since DH is also associated with other diseases such as intestinal malabsorption, infection with Helicobacter pylori, autoimmune atrophic gastritis and celiac disease.

After establishing the causes, Ruiz Delgado recommends that a treatment with ferrous iron salts be practiced orally. Only when oral treatment could not be performed on the patient, it would be given intravenously.

How much iron should be given to babies?

According to the American National Institute of Health, Babies need an intake of 0.27 mg up to 6 months and 11 mg between seven months and one year. In fact, the Pan American Health Organization ensures that total body iron at birth is one of the fundamental aspects to take into account, which is why the need for iron administration at the beginning of life is not so high compared to other stages.

Therefore, there is a high importance of iron during pregnancy. A pregnant woman should consume approximately 27 milligrams per day.

It is also a priority to maintain exclusive breastfeeding until at least 6 months. This is because the iron contained in breast milk is well absorbed, if it is compared with other liquids or solids that can be introduced to the baby's diet in that period.

Iron Importance: Foods I Can Give My Baby

The Spanish Association of Pediatrics (AEPED) recommends exclusive breastfeeding up to 6 months of age. From there, you can begin what is known as complementary feeding, which is the process of offering your baby food other than breast milk or formula. as a complement and not as a substitute.

When parents become aware of the importance of iron, they think about preventing DH and a good way is to include foods rich in this mineral in the complementary diet. But they must do it properly, as explained by Dr. Marta Gómez among the Recommendations of the Spanish Association of Pediatrics on complementary feeding.

The inclusion of foods rich in iron is essential in the baby's diet.

Red meat

Red meat contains 3 and 4 milligrams of iron per 100 grams depending on the cut that is consumed. The AEPED recommends offering it daily from six months.

It can be pureed, cooked and crumbled, avoiding fried foods. In large infants, it can be included in small pieces, preferably cooked on the grill, in croquettes or meatballs.

Quinoa

Quinoa contains 13.2 milligrams of this mineral. It is a seed considered as a cereal, so it can be dissolved in milk or consumed added to purees. It is recommended that if the mother is expressing breast milk, add this cereal powder and dissolve it.

Nuts

It is important that only ground is offered at 6 months. The AEPED disapproves that they are included in the diet in the form of solids before the age of 3 years to avoid the risk of suffocation. Among the nuts that contain the most iron are sesame seeds, with 9 milligrams, pistachios with 7.2 milligrams, and almonds, with 4 milligrams.

Also read: Why should you consume nuts?

Cereals

The cereal group includes corn, wheat, barley, rice, oats, and rye. They usually offer 3.4 milligrams of iron. In these cases, those that contain sugars or honey are not recommended, since it is preferable that they consume it in powder dissolved in milk.

Mollusks

In the case of mollusks, they are an important source of iron. Those that contain the most are clams, cockles and chirlas with 24 milligrams.

Nevertheless, the introduction of shellfish to the diet of infants is a matter of debate because they can cause allergies. In fact, the American Pediatric Association does not recommend that they consume them before the year, although it is something that is still under study.

Vegetables

The legumes that provide the most iron are green beans with 5.1 milligrams. It is recommended that they begin to ingest them from the eighth month in vegetable purees or cooked. Other legumes that can be considered for the iron diet are chickpeas, green peas, cooked lentils, and peanuts.

Green vegetables

Among the green vegetables with the highest amount of iron are asparagus with 2.1 milligrams. Although they are easily digested, their consumption is recommended after 12 months because they have a high tendency to accumulate nitrites that can cause poisoning and gastroenteritis. They can be eaten raw and well washed for the first time, always aware of the child's tolerance to vegetables.

The baby must consume enough iron

As you can see, iron is vital for the proper development of your child. Make sure that she is exclusively breastfed during the first months of life and then, when the pediatrician recommends the introduction of foods, pay attention to a balanced diet.

By correctly introducing iron into your baby's diet, you can ensure that they develop in a healthy way, have an adequate quality of life, and grow strong.